When to get involved in toddler arguments or fights

“That’s MINE!” Those two words are going to be the start, middle, and end of most of the toddler fights you come across. The majority of arguments between kids at this age are going to revolve around a toy or toys, and that’s perfectly normal, if a little annoying. Sure, two blocks might look the same to you, but his is bigger! And Baby had it first!

When Baby is involved in a tiff, your first instinct might be to get involved, find out who’s in the wrong, and resolve the situation. While there are some occasions where that might be the right course of action, many fights won’t actually require your expertise.

If everyone is safe and there’s no physical fighting or aggression, hang back for a little bit. See if Baby and their friend or friends can figure out a solution themselves. Maybe they’ll decide to share, maybe someone will find a new toy, or maybe one of them will lose interest in the toy (or the fight).

If Baby sees you, they might want you to step in and help, but you can just explain that you think they are super smart and can solve their problem without you this time.

If it’s clear after a few minutes that the situation isn’t going to resolve itself, you can step in with your years of adult wisdom. But uh, what’s that adult wisdom again?

  • Model behavior for Baby: Right, right. When you do intervene, make sure that you’re remaining calm. Speak slowly, try not to interrupt, and show Baby how to take turns speaking and explaining the situation.
    Don’t tolerate aggression: If there’s any physical fighting or signs of aggression, don’t hesitate to get involved. Separate everyone and explain that we never hit or hurt each other, no matter what.
  • Verbally summarize the fight: Once you have a good idea of what the fight is about, talk it through with the group. “Sarah had the block first, right? And you wanted to use it? And then what happened? Was there maybe another way you could have tried that?”
  • Come to a mutual solution: Brainstorm with Baby about ways they could solve their without fighting. “Do you think you could have played with it for two minutes and then given it back? Would that have made both of you feel happy?”
  • Praise good behavior: Reinforcing positive behavior is often a better option than punishing negative behavior. Praise Baby when they are sharing and playing well.

If Baby can’t resolve a fight with their friends and your involvement doesn’t seem to be helping, there’s no shame in taking a break from playtime until everyone can calm down. Maybe Baby and their friends can use this relaxation time to think about ways to play together better and have more fun.

  • Telep, Valya; Schenck, Betsy. “Discipline: When Children Argue and Fight.” Virginia Cooperative Extension. Virginia State University. May 1, 2009. Web.
  • Kostelnik, Marjorie et al. “Helping Children Resolve Conflict: Aggressive Behavior of Children.” Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families & Schools, Nebraska. University of Nebraska – Lincoln. 2010. Web.
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